BREAK, BLOW, FIZZLE

WHAT HAPPENED TO CAMILLE PAGLIA?

ALL communication is a warning.

The more articulate a person, the more they are experiencing what they are warning us about.

All information presupposes danger.  The menu cries out against the horror of starvation–the diet warns of the menu.  The chef who starves cooks best.

Priests are unable to warn directly, since the more articulate the priest, the more that priest personally knows the very sin against which their sermon is a warning.

The dilemma of the articulate priest is at the heart of all moral philosophy and its intellectual, political, cultural, and pedagogical conflicts.

Loyalty is the quality which attempts to stave off this conflict.  Loyalty to group or tribe warns against the dilemma of the articulate priest.  The truly articulate priest disrupts loyalty and its certainties; this is why prophets are hated in their own land.

Camille Paglia is an articulate priest who smashes loyalites.  She offends all groups.  All have reason to despise her: Democrats, Republicans, independents, feminists, conservatives, gays, Catholics, and scholars.

Paglia is the Barren Mother and the Breeding Virgin of intellectual culture.

She is a lustful Socrates, whose questing, intellectual advocacy is centered on ecstatic pleasures and sexual beauty–hers is a warning against what she, personally, has secretly suffered: chastity.

Obviously it’s nobody’s business how much someone gets laid, but my thesis is based on a guess that during Paglia’s development as a young person, she didn’t get laid.  This was both her strength and her weakness.

Paglia fell in love at a very early age with Amelia Earhart’s lone flights—the poem “Alone” by Edgar Poe probably best sums up her soul.  Paglia was a virgin during the 60s and adopted the brazen lesbian role as a graduate student to hide the shame of her uncool virginity.

Paglia, the scholar of sex, shone, as the scholar, herself, remained virginal, or, if not virginal, deeply ashamed of losing out to more successful schmoozers in sex and career.

The virgin is alone more profoundly when surrounded, and not barred from, sexual activity.  For whatever reason, actual sex wasn’t a fit, so Paglia became an artistic fan of pornography—but not out of a feeling of deficiency, for she was an Amelia Earhart in her soul, flying above the boorish crowd.

We warn of what we know—the awed, hurting mind produces what the sensual, happy mind cannot.

Sexual Personae marked the start of a brilliant career.  Her gadfly presence in magazines and the lecture circuit, in the wake of the success of her historical treatise, was truly exciting.  But the promised second volume of Sexual Personae never arrived.  Then she began to write on politics, speaking of presidents and secretaries of state as if she were making snarky judgments at a high school dance.  It never quite rang true.

Paglia also boxed herself in as a hater of ‘French Theory;’ it was always obvious to me this prejudice of hers was linked to her mentor, Harold Bloom, who, like many academics, is explicitly pro-Emerson/anti-Poe, and this Anglophone school can never forgive the French for loving Poe.

Then she took five years to write Break, Blow, Burn, her book on poetry, a tepid close-reading exercise of some of her favorite poems.

How in the world did the author of Sexual Personae morph into Cleanth Brooks?

And five years…think of it.   That’s the writing career of Keats, the recording career of the Beatles (almost), the entire career of the Doors, to take a few dozen short poems, many loved and adored since childhood, and riff on them…this took five years?

Couldn’t most of us do this in a week?

Paglia still blogs on Salon and most readers hate her; the consensus of Salon readers seems to be, I HATE THIS B***, FIRE HER!!!

Which is great.   We at Scarriet understand.  But what happened to you, Camille?

Really?

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2 Comments

  1. bluehole said,

    November 3, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    From an interview at Bookslut:

    Well, I always thought that Mark Strand would be on my list, you know. He went to Yale with me, and I thought, my friend is getting in. Then I went back to actually find one, okay, and there was one poem, but it didn’t quite fit in the book, this wonderful poem about his penis when he’s courting the woman he would marry [“Courtship”]. And he says, “My penis is huge.” And she recalls “His penis is very small.” And he says “I have no penis.” And it’s a wonderful poem.

    But I have to ask, does that poem belong in this book along with Yeats “The Second Coming.” I was very influenced by Ginsberg, too. There’s “A Supermarket in California,” but that one is too long.

    http://www.bookslut.com/features/2005_04_005030.php

    Strand’s poem:

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=179140

  2. thomasbrady said,

    November 4, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    See, that’s what we love about Camille; she’s too big-hearted to be a Foet.

    She confesses she wanted to put Strand in because she knew him at Yale, and this is the way it works–all that fake indignation against Alan Cordle and Foetry.com, notwithstanding–but Paglia was too honest…she LOVED the penis stuff, but she finally said to herself, ‘I can’t put this poem in a book of the best poems.’

    Good for her. Here was the perfect set-up. 1. Friend with 2. Highly Amusing, Kick-Ass Poem, which she liked. But she said, No. And because she had the Honesty to Compare Strand’s poem to the Best. She (gasp!) used Critical Judgment Based on Historical Knowledge and Democratic Taste.

    Paglia’s instincts are better than her Yale indocrination into ‘erudite, New Critical, close-reading’ which unfortunately led her astray into the Time-suck of this Close-Reading book. One doesn’t need ‘close-reading’ to be blown away by a Keats Ode, nor does one need ‘close-reading’ to find that Strand poem in poor taste.

    There’s nothing wrong with reading a poem carefully, but ‘too much care’ becomes self-defeating; over-fastidiousness is, in fact, the enemy of great art which moves with powerful emotion–and Paglia surely would understand my point here.

    A poet as erudite as Pope warned in his ‘Essay on Criticism’ against a criticism of ‘close-reading’ which allows a series of minor faults to mar appreciation of the overall greatness of a work.

    It is this spirit which the New Critics violated in their attempt to canonize their friends, by turning poetry into a parlor game of erudition–rather than a place where popular taste and critical taste meet.

    Here’s the rub: ‘Close-reading’ done by an ‘expert’ can convince the student or novice of the significance of any poem, including the dreck produced by the ‘zine, Red Wheel Barrow Modernists, looking for instant acclaim.

    ‘Close-reading’ was a strategy by the John Crowe Ransom-led Priesthood which got its nose in the academy through early Writing Programs at Iowa, Princeton, Stanford, Chicago, Cornell, etc. This coup was effected by a dozen priests–who covered their tracks beautifully. Even Paglia, who saw Cleanth Brooks on the street every day in New Haven, couldn’t sniff it out. My guess is Harold Bloom steered her away from seeing it at crucial moments.

    So Paglia, the “Italian immigrant,” with all her pop-culture, 60s era moxie, was duped into climbing upon the torture wheel of New Criticism; using all her wit and energy to convince us that The Red Wheel Barrow by WC Williams is a GREAT poem…

    What a tragedy.